It is always a pleasure to visit a new Mandarins match venue and this one had been built up beforehand by match supremo Paul McIntyre, who told us that a first class fixture had once been played at Hornsey Cricket Club. This triggered a lively WhatsApp debate as to whether this was a first for the Mandarins, which as ever was settled conclusively by the Archivist. In the event, once I had actually found the ground, having visited Crouch End CC first, it did not disappoint. Closer inspection revealed an interesting Lords-like slope – and a spectator later told me that Middlesex 2nds use the ground for precisely that reason.
Onto the game. It was always going to be a struggle to get 11 Mandarins to North London for a 12.30 start, especially as a number of us do not venture north of the river lightly. In the absence of our esteemed Chairman, senior pros debated and agreed it would be better to field first, to check out our new opposition. Which we duly did. Stan Forman started off for the Mandarins and quickly picked up a wicket as the Hornsey captain, eyes lighting up at a shortish wide delivery aimed it to the right of your correspondent, who dived and somewhat to the surprise of everyone emerged with the ball clasped in his right hand. There then followed a period of accumulation, with Allen the Hornsey No 1 leading the way; he eventually put together a well-made 81, which was the bedrock of the Hornsey innings. Spin (to be honest we did not have much else once Arvind and Stan had opened the bowling) proved reasonably effective and Hornsey never took the game away from us. Rakesh bowled with great guile to take 4-47; Forman senior got the dangerous No 5 who had slogged his way to 25 very quickly, whilst McIntyre and Baxter took two wickets each). Hornsey were bowled out with the last ball of 40 overs for 187 – a good score but surely not beyond the realms of possibility? The early season catching form was generally upheld, whilst the Chairman took a very neat stumping.
The Mandarins made a steady reply. After Jamie Brocklebank and Arvind had both departed bowled (Arvind particularly unlucky to play on), Baxter and Williams progressed from 35 to 74-2 off 20. Alas by this time Hornsey had deployed two very useful spin bowlers, one of whom was allegedly 13. Cue a mini collapse as first Baxter departed lbw playing across the line for 27, to be quickly followed by debutant Matt Brown, Rakesh and Baker. By the time Williams fell for 24 the Mandarins were 87-7. There followed a stylish innings from our Chairman, who unleashed at least one classic Wilmot cover drive, reaching 19. The final total was 118 all out. Not an untypical Mandarins batting display alas, with early promise not delivering. But a good day was had by one and all against sporting opposition. Definitely one to make the trek up north for.